Australia Day: Represents ongoing pain and suffering - Aboriginal Academic

By Bronson Perich
Dr Jessa Rogers-Metuamate. Source - Dr Jessa Rogers-Metuamate. Used with permission.

An Aboriginal academic from the Wiradjuri nation supports the call to change the date of Australia Day. January 26th was chosen because it marks the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships to Pork Jackson (modern day Sydney). Dr Jessa Rogers-Metuamate (Ngāti Wiradjuri) explains why this day, is a painful day for her people.

"Of course, for Aboriginal people, it's not a celebration. For most of us it represents survival, for others, it represents invasion."

While the First Fleet was not an invasion force, war soon arose. The Hawkesbury and Nepean wars of New South Wales started less than 10 years after the landing. The Tasmanian War saw the entire Aboriginal population of the island state either killed, or forcibly removed, less than 50 years after.

Combine this with their recent history of land loss, colonisation, stolen generations, and the death of Aboriginals in police custody, this is why Rogers-Metuamate says:

“That date represents for Aboriginal people significant pain and suffering, not just in the past, but today, it's ongoing."

As for what date Australia Day should be, Dr Rogers-Metuamate did not offer one. She explains that she does not speak for Aboriginals as a whole. What she offers instead, is a process on how the right date could be found.

“If they did want to change the date, I hope that they would talk to Aboriginal people as a collective, and find a date that you know, the majority would be happy with.”

One date, that has been suggested, is May 8th, an idea promoted by Internet Personality Jordan Raskopoulos as “the most Australian day of all.”

While Rogers-Metuamate did not say if she was for or against this date, she did admit that it, "Always makes her laugh."

About Dr Jessa Rogers-Metuamate

Dr Jessa Rogers-Metuamate is from the Wiradjuri nation, one of Australia's largest Aboriginal peoples.

Her whakapapa connects her to Gilgandra, Cootamundra, and the surrounding country in New South Wales. Her grandmother and great-grandfather ancestors were part of that 'stolen generation' who were removed and adopted, to be raised with White families.

This meant that many Aboriginal people lost links to their own bloodlines, and some raised without knowing of their own Aboriginal heritage. Rogers-Metuamate counts herself as lucky, that she connected with her Aboriginal Grandmother before her passing aged 44, and that she and her children were raised knowing they are Aboriginal.

"Family links are painful and difficult to reconnect, and unfortunately for some, they are almost impossible.

"This part of our history as Aboriginal people continues to cause great anguish, pain and hurt," Rogers-Metuamate says.

Dr Rogers Metuamate has two sons, with another on the way. Their whānau are moving to New Zealand next month so that her husband Dr Areti Metuamate (Ngāi Māori, Ngāi Kuki 'Āirani) can take up his new position as head of Te Kupenga, the newly created Catholic Leadership Institute.